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I found out a nurse I worked with smokes marijuana before coming to work and is possibly a danger to patients. What should I do?

Wednesday February 6, 2013
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Question:

Dear Nancy,

I found out a nurse I worked with in an NICU unit smokes marijuana before coming to work. He almost caused the death of a baby after a critical delivery. When he was asked to intubate the baby, he froze and didn't know what to do. Another nurse, who has worked with him before, said he is a very dangerous nurse. What should I do?

Taylor



Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Taylor,

When a nurse becomes aware of a fellow staff member who may be at risk for injuring a patient, including those who come to work under the influence, the nurse is bound by his or her ethical and legal mandates (e.g., check your nurse practice act) to, at a minimum, report the staff member to the appropriate source within the institution.

However, it is important to be certain that you have personal knowledge of the conduct that is going to be reported and it is accurate and truthful. Being a "dangerous nurse" is not very specific. Also, it is unclear if the "freezing up" was directly related to the use of marijuana. It may be that the nurse is not competent to practice for another reason. Whatever the basis of the conduct, if the reporter does not accurately and truthfully report the concern, the reporter faces serious legal ramifications, including the possibility of a defamation suit.

It would be a good idea to consult with a nurse attorney or attorney who can advise you on how to proceed with this information. Checking your facility policy may provide you with some guidance that you can discuss with your attorney.

Cordially,
Nancy




Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.